The University in the Time of COVID-19

Saint John Henry Newman wrote in The Idea of a University that “education implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character; it is something individual and permanent, and is commonly spoken of in connection with religion and virtue.”

But what is the university in light of the challenges posed by COVID-19? Can the university still fulfill her mission? What is the university’s goal — creating saints, forming citizens, educating the intellect, or fostering friendships — and have there been deviations from or improvements in light of this goal during the pandemic?

Continuing the dynamic discussion from our recent panel on the university in the time of COVID, join IHE Fellows Thomas HibbsAngela Knobel, and Brandon Vaidyanathan for a conversation delving more deeply into the goal of university education moderated by IHE Executive Director Joseph Capizzi.


Thomas Hibbs is a professor of philosophy and the ninth president of the University of Dallas. Previously, Dr. Hibbs was dean of the Honors College and distinguished professor of ethics and culture at Baylor University since 2003. He has spent most of his career writing, teaching and designing academic programs; he has 30 published academic articles, and two are forthcoming. He has written, edited or provided introductions for 12 books, including three on the thought of Thomas Aquinas. He has also written more than 200 movie reviews and dozens of essays and book reviews for publications such as National ReviewCatholic World ReportFirst ThingsThe Weekly Standard and others. Hibbs received a B.A. in English and an M.A. in philosophy from UD and both a master’s and a doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame. He was a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College for three years before moving to Boston College, where he taught for 13 years as full professor and chair of the philosophy department.


Joseph Capizzi is an ordinary professor of moral theology at The Catholic University of America. He teaches in the areas of social and political theology, with special interests in issues in peace and war, citizenship, political authority, and Augustinian theology. He has written, lectured, and published widely on just war theory, bioethics, the history of moral theology, and political liberalism, including his book entitled, Politics, Justice, and War: Christian Governance and the Ethics of Warfare. Dr. Capizzi is the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America. He received his B.A. from the University of Virginia, a Masters in Theological Studies from Emory University, and both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He lives in Maryland with his wife and six children.


Angela Knobel is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas. She has published extensively on medieval and contemporary ethics. Her work focuses primarily on Aquinas’ theory of infused virtue, virtue ethics and applied ethics. She has published widely in such journals as The ThomistAmerican Catholic Philosophical QuarterlyNova et VeteraInternational Philosophical Quarterly and The Journal of Moral Theology. Her book Aquinas and the Infused Moral Virtues is forthcoming from the University of Notre Dame Press. Dr. Knobel received her B.A. from The Catholic University of America, her M.A. in mathematics from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.


Brandon Vaidyanathan is an associate professor of sociology and chair of the sociology department at The Catholic University of America. His research examines the cultural dimensions of religious, commercial, medical, and scientific institutions. He has been published in journals such as Business and SocietyJournal of the American Academy of ReligionSocial ForcesSocial ProblemsSociology of ReligionJournal for the Scientific Study of ReligionJournal for the Theory of Social Behavior, and Work, Employment, and Society. He is the author of Mercenaries and Missionaries: Capitalism and Catholicism in the Global South (Cornell University Press, 2019) and co-author of Secularity and Science: What Scientists Around the World Really Think About Religion (Oxford University Press, 2019). He received his B.A. and M.A. in Business Administration from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and HEC Montreal respectively, and his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame.